THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW

Night pulled new hostages down for the dream world, a dozen at a time.

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Time became a main character in the play, a drama—not a comedy. Well, a tragedy if honesty should factor in, but Time would really tell.

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The borders, as usual, were questionable. Everyone was trying to get out of town, see themselves from somewhere else.

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It’s okay to be lost on one-way streets, working in the dark, hazed with cloud, filling out paperwork with your name, so you can belong.

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Once you stop bleeding, you shall be wiser.

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Once on a high floor of the skyscraper, your image will multiply.

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You now live on Choice Street in the city of Renewal in a state of Gentle Chaos and work for the Department of Speculation.

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I know you are wondering about all this.

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When I pick up the book in the recurring dream, it is always empty. At first, this saddens me. I was looking for the chapter BELIEF. Then I find a pen.

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Your father’s favorite flannel jacket doesn’t smell like him any longer, but then you realize your father had no scent.

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I was a sheet of glass in the wind of their voices.

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So many could not fathom the expansive field of the poem.

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Not everyone needs language in the same way.

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You look confused by the quarantine; the mask accentuates the disorientation in your eyes.

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When things go boring, you are known to invent and count angels.

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The radio host spoke of a man whose ghost significant other of two years left to cheat on him; an actual ghost ghosted him.

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Your mother always warned you about the opposite sex. 

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Sometimes the days cartwheeled; other days, they somersaulted slowly.

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All those hours of daylight and nowhere certain to go.

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You must have patience to deseed strawberries.

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The prize was given for the best attitude amidst the wreckage, in the wake of continuing wars and protests absent from multimedia screens.

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The father told the son he was burning in a bright direction toward God.

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The leader led with a child’s vocabulary.

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We were afraid to take the ferry because of predicted hail to the islands to which we burned all the bridges. The last match in the book could take cities—with gasoline, of course.

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The birthday was a reminder of everything left behind, year by year.

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When the baby was left at the train station, the conductor brought it home to a wife that had lost many and therefore, knit hats, sweaters, and blankets.

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There are no medications for happiness really.

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A picnic used to help settle the neighbors before the ATVs were taken into the jaws of a big crunch machine. Privacy has its cost.

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The world is, by necessity, random.

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We had prayers for an afterlife completely different from anything we could imagine.

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The children were restless again; all extracurricular activities were cancelled.

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The dirt in one’s hands and fingernails was now more than needed, but scratching a wasp sting could, therefore, cause infection. Wash your hands every hour.

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One wanted to share the lessons and take from others before a spiritual bankruptcy that precluded the movement of dance—just languor.

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The traffic thinned, which allowed as many parades as possible, replete with trombones and candy, but no one was watching.

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The baton twirlers wept into their pillows where they practiced kissing.

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The poem collected rain for dust, light for night, encouragement for the less than brave.

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The things to know didn’t know anything.

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We were all so changed.

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STORIES OF THE FUTURE

The cave where we grew secrets was a safe place; our memories couldn’t harvest us.

The glass beakers and vials held amalgamations of human tears, rainwater, bee pollen, and dust.

If pressed, unlike the alchemist, we would not give up our families, sell food for golden threads.

Unless there was excess vegetation unfurling from our hands, unless our families didn’t miss us.

There were many worlds within the world and outside of us, dimensions of sorrow.

To measure all of them might take eternity’s windfall, the knowledge of truculent stars.

At last sighting, the beloved had a mouthful of desert sand, trying to harbor time.

The sandstorm had rendered all golden kites useless, the pool of water a hallucination, in fact.

We sold our stories of the future to those who needed incentive to wake up, beliefs in magic.

By the fire at night against the backdrop of steady rain, we sang of fallen heroes who gave up their stories, bled out on stone, transformed us.

A chorus of thunder punctuated stanzas of bravery with the crescendo of dangerous refrains.

Hurry now, braid the wind with fire and hail, the thunder with courage and kindness.

Love was a camel in the desert dreaming of rain, a candle of wax for lighting ways out of dark labyrinths we created.

In the cave, our secrets grew white lilies teeming from our eyes, prayers even staunch atheists half-believed.

It was still a dark time, but our stories of the future set birds alight into new skies off the maps.

The stories became us, pages in a book we would sell for more bee nectar, more rain.

Once there was a golden camel that held a globe of nectar, a world of calm betrayal.

Once there was a boy who traded all his baseball cards for clarity.

A woman who looked in the mirror and became rain, a day that heralded parades.

Our families understood our search to cure the diseases of cities falling off the calendar.

Love was the gift that fell through our hands, nectar that might eradicate doubt and chaos.

The beloved sent postcards about weariness and loss, golden threads and birds of travel.

Our secrets kept growing wings soaring into the future for children and magical kingdoms without time.

Even with us, the pillars of some worlds would crumble, some days would fold into themselves forever.

It was all we could do with the new sun crawling up the horizon, with our lilies blooming more stories and birds.

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LOVE WAS AN AMPUTATION WITH TOO MANY PHANTOM LIMBS

Love was an amputation with too many phantom limbs.

The legs ached to walk to the house of the beloved and climb the tree ladder to his second house in the stars with their indelible sequences.

Up there, we dreamed of being off the grid, sailing across the Mediterranean from country to country, living in languages we didn’t know, kissing beneath stained glass windows depicting holy men and books of wisdom.

Even the sepulchers lacked sadnesses that would fill in much later.  

Arms throbbed to wrap around the beloved’s torso, a sculpture at one’s hands, seemingly missing, too, with desire’s own heartbeats, pulsating with an urgency to be recognized.  

Some memories hurt the core underneath the stomach and caused a wincing at the scent of his cologne in a crowd of strangers, the gesture of his hands contemplating the universe out loud.

Over and over, the memories distilled to postcards with no addresses that would curl up in a box under the bed.

It was hard to breathe without trees and bird trills. The birds vacated quickly with the first signs of industrial saws, the workers in fluorescent jackets.

The absent music left the silence of being deaf after being able to hear; one looked frantically for the volume dial to supply instances with a soundtrack to amplify potential meanings.

Despair could be a name for emptiness or the fear of never getting anything right the way the night felt in the forest before all the floors fell out, the sinkholes left by tree stumps and private burials.

It was like looking for the dead in a pile of photographs, aching to hear their voices, be in the presence of the ones who seemed to perfect us, dance in a proliferation of mirrors.

The phantom limbs were ghosts that walked right through us with the winds of small sabotages.

The postcards could be sent to his last known address; the treehouse could be stalked at night until the police came.

It was so difficult to differentiate everything that rose to the surface to be named–even colossal absences.

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SCAFFOLDING

The woman in the painting had fallen off the fence between Monday and Tuesday.

She pulled the blanket of stars down to examine them, one by one, burning her fingers.

When she touched her face, a halo blossomed with the smallest white butterflies.

She was trying to see Wednesday, but the scaffolding of beliefs crumbled.

The holiest week had quarantined sorrows braided with deaths and silences.

She would tightrope Thursday without alarming the others with disturbing visions.

The vacation proved a myth, the drama consumed tragedy, the students couldn’t sit still.

All saints were dead but resurrected into the fame of postage stamps.

She knew that to be unseen could be dangerous; poverty required discipline.

The book she carried glared potentially useless, a score for uncomfortable feelings.

With cello accompaniment—a chorus of women wailing, glaciers breaking.

The robots were warned not to be overly human; that the ego had shallow pitfalls.

After all, one wanted to be something more than a conglomeration of footfalls.

The footnotes to Friday distilled the chaos into unfinished meanings.

Weekends were canvases that glared with a tenable vocabulary all their own.

Not to touch another proved more problematic than anticipated, foreseen.

The viewer was confused but curious about the delay of movement, the broken song.

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FURTHER STUDIES IN EXISTENTIALISM

The ones who did not recognize the subject were sent away with a refund.

The caretaker played her favorite music, so she would take the pills without biting his hand.

A steadying branch, the beloved [at times], radiates amidst the fuzzy confusion.

With the right haircut, one can be different for a while.

How many days can one wear a bathrobe before it is clinical? The philosopher wonders.

The Sisyphus uphill seemed more difficult to navigate in daylight.

Being overwhelmed subtracted her somehow.

Next month, I will believe in something. I am almost certain.

Some people are linear, some circles, some Mobïus strips.

Bring the spiritual medicine kit when you sign the nondisclosure agreement.

It is possible to get lost in sound paintings, cloud paintings, a mile.

The dog can hear chewing from the other side of the House.

After our long winter hibernation, we are hungry all the time.

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WE REGRET TO INFORM YOU

You can’t park there.

We gave you the wrong vaccine for melancholy.

Your ex has married and won the lottery.

Your current spouse has a secret bank account.

There are 38 more days of winter even though the groundhog did not see its shadow.

Not all roads lead to Rome.

The speed limit is 35 miles per hour.

You have the right to remain silent.

Not everyone will vote.

Due to a breach with our cyber security, you may or may not be a candidate for identity theft.

You’re late to the party; all the sushi is gone.

There is no fortune in your fortune cookie.

Your package has been lost or stolen; check nearby surveillance cameras.

There is no cure for your disease.

Not all the tests your doctor ordered will be covered by your health insurance plan.

There are more wars going on than the ones shown on your TV.

Your library card has been revoked until you find the missing book you took out last summer.

The dog you rescued is having puppies.

Your favorite sweater is on backwards, and your socks don’t match.

Your new boss saw you at the gas station in your pajamas albeit under your coat, but she knows.

All your co-workers, sans you, have been promoted.

There’s a monkey on your back, a chip on your shoulder.

The snowplow took out your mailbox, and you missed garbage day again.

Your psychiatrist had her baby early and will be out for twelve weeks. Act accordingly.

Your grandmother watches The Bachelor while drinking martinis.

Your son has disowned the entire family.

The Narcan didn’t work on time, but you’re not allowed to disclose who overdosed on the heroin and fentanyl.

Your DNA sample indicates that you may have been cloned.

Your neighbors are signing a petition.

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VALENTINE’S DAY

  1. I cut my heart out with a kitchen knife and threw it in the sea at high tide because it no longer served me.
  1. I built a boat from driftwood to look for it, but it had sunk beneath the waves.
  1. Early this morning, I walked the beach at low tide hoping to find it, sheathed in delicate seaweed; to gather it back and let it dry in the distant winter sun.
  1. At dusk, I gathered it in a broken music box from my deceased grandmother and spoke to it all night because I could not remember the melody.
  1. Come back, I didn’t mean to run the car in the garage. I just might need you.
  1. The House is very quiet. Ashamed, I dodge all the mirrors and turn back the clocks to a different day when somebody held me against starlight.
  1. Nothing is forever except forever.
  1. Laughter still may fill the colossal gap between y and z, the ending.
  1. It is time to sit with the ghosts of the House and tell them everything.
  1. They are afraid for me.
  1. It all became so difficult to breathe, to find things worth finding.
  1. And then the Book was returned to me; the stones in my chest once again became pages.
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MEASURING WINTER /j  

 

  1. Melancholia perched atop the Angel of Poetry on the Christmas tree, an invisible Elf on the Shelf there for maybe days. When no one was looking, she slid through the necklaces of tiniest lights across the crystal snowflake ornaments, small placards declaring noel, peace, silent night, believe to the manger carved in white stone.

 

  1. She was forgotten amidst the opening of glitter-wrapped gifts and held breaths during the scratching off of lottery tickets. No one won this year, but everyone had new socks.

 

  1. When the guests left, she permeated the entire House even with the dozen strands of Christmas lights, the starry night of deepest repose; the disturbing show paused.

 

  1. The missing gathered at the ceiling, dreaming of saying words out loud; touch. They missed their bodies; the play of cause and effect.

 

  1. Washed away by several warmer days, smaller piles of snow remained, dirty beneath the streetlights atop the brown leaves you never finished raking.

 

  1. You would let her stay tonight though it was a dangerous proposition; welcome her, in fact, for just tonight while you gathered your holiday-depleted energy and formulated a new strategy in the interstices of disturbing dreams.

 

  1. Melancholia hadn’t descended like this for five months. The Angel of Poetry had ensconced herself mid-summer; leading you through magical sentences; iterations, sublime; an infinity like no other except perhaps love.

 

  1. The Angel waited for the other to leave in the morning when you banished Melancholia with your deepest being, enriched with sleep.

 

  1. The beloved was still far away; words at the sea lost in high-tide winds of scatter.

 

  1. Work would complete the forgetting; the sweeping of sadnesses under the carpet of Thursday.

 

  1. The tires of the car needed twelve pounds of air on the passenger side, and you would figure out how to use the machine at the gas station without too much embarrassment.

 

  1. Your poker face perfected like the sunlight climbing through the trees.
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MEASURING WINTER /e

 

  1. Today’s topic is entropy; the rotting side of the garage exterior wall that will cost $950 to rip out and install new cedar shingles, according to the contractor whom you fear ripped you off on the work done on the House the summer before last. [And the friend who painted the other side of the house you had to unfriend in the physical and cyber world.] No invoice; no straightening of the slats at the apex, small attic, as promised. When you remember to call him about the slats, you’ll get the answering machine, and it will take weeks for him to get back to you for a job for which you already paid.

 

  1. The temperature has dropped, freezing rain throughout the night—and the driveway, a sheet of ice without enough salt to melt it.

 

  1. A wise decision to call out from the half-day at the day job vs. risking your safety, and aging on the treacherous drive there and back. Just you and the dog and cat in the living room with the Christmas tree adorned with the extra sets of lights and more ornaments than you thought you’d have the energy to hang on the hooks that always get tangled somehow while in storage in the cellar.

 

  1. With the cold, your hands are not cooperating, so you’ve turned the heat up now that the oil has been delivered; the worker traipsing through the snow with rubber boots up to his knees. You watched him surreptitiously through the gauze curtain, thinking he has on his ice fishing gear.

 

  1. Sickness has settled in again, and there doesn’t seem to be enough ginger ale on the closest drug store’s shelves since it’s fortuitously on sale this week. The lemon hard candy helps though.

 

  1. What if I’m dying?, you ask yourself—before the inevitable answer, we’re all dying.

 

  1. The living will presented to you by the kind technician in the too-small, ever-shrinking examination room at the doctor’s four days ago is probably protocol for any adult, no? And then the awkward conversation with your next of kin about the decisions you made and his name and cell phone number on the form.

 

  1. The day seems stuck again in the cogwheels of late afternoon. It’s time for a new distraction since sleep didn’t come as beseeched when you went to lie down with the dog in the still-fresh bedding. Kicking him out of the bedroom every morning to make the bed properly has eliminated the prevalence of his fur.

 

  1. The disgruntled cat does not like any other wet food except Friskees but not any of the patés, which you have to admit looks like shit coagulated in a can. Luckily, you had the foresight to buy her small tins of sardines; their eyes staring up at you from the dead.

 

  1. The Christmas cards are almost ready to travel to the post office, replete with cheerful stickers of silver-glitter snowflakes and absurd dogs in Santa hats and stockings riding in wheelbarrows.

 

  1. There have been more deaths; some unexpected and some, the cause of old age. The manuscripts that need to be finished seem to burn in your hands that ache from wrapping all the small Christmas presents, early this year though you may still add some more ribbons, bows, and other ornamental flares.

 

  1. Not everything is art, but it all should be, you muse—even entropy.

 

 

 

 

 

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MEASURING WINTER /i

  1. I am losing things. My ducks are not in a row; they have gone rogue at twilight while I was watching mindless TV instead of the world news, unable to bear today’s tragedies.

 

  1. I am losing my ideas and such. They wander off the rail, into the embankment of last night’s deadly car crash, off the grid. I’m looking for them in the dumpster behind my favorite restaurant I can no longer afford, in the swamp behind your house with my industrial-sized flashlight, but the batteries are dying, and I’m not sure how many flickers of light are left.

 

  1. I lost the velvet emerald dress for the holiday party this weekend that I bought matching shoes for, the long coat that would be warm enough for the cold weather predicted. I’m stuck in the labyrinth of my own making again; on my hands and knees, reaching for the words that fall endlessly through the gaps of synapses, memory.

 

  1. My failures with syntax glare at the periphery of day shifting, winding down without me, perpendicular lines, or beautiful symmetry.

 

  1. Do the math, I tell myself, enumerate the missing and dead with stick figures in the cave of the self. Measure winter appropriately with the rusted ruler, the distance from— [your disappearing House, all the lies I told].

 

  1. The river between our delipidated houses is overflowing now the December night has gone oddly warm, and the blue snow beneath the streetlights melts. A Siberian land of ice chunks, floes; the cracking ice moans, an old woman who has lost her own visage in her broken compact mirror, echoes out above the evening traffic, hovering.

 

  1. We should walk together out of this melting ice land, holding hands until we reach the southern border, but we mustn’t speak of any of this.

 

  1. When you find the rust-orange leather glove and the moonstone earring I lost that day you kissed me languidly last week when the river was frozen, that day we knew our equation would not be a summation, but rather a subtraction, please package them in tissue and leave in my mailbox that the plow knocked down again three long days ago. You’ve become part of the negative space where I live huddled with blankets and an odd assortment of talismans to protect me from what is to come.

 

  1. I know you are pacing along the river on your side of things, flicking daylight through test tubes, picking apart the malfunctioning parts of the machine, pulling out your silver hair—all for the sake of some shabby catharsis, a fabricated antidote. You’re predictable that way; trying to pass the night with a steadying branch over the newest abyss.

 

  1. The clock seems stuck, but it has been wound and cooed to. It’s funny how some days stretch larger than one’s imagination can.

 

  1. The rooster windchime outside my bedroom window is clanging away the night even though the clock is slow to move, and all the devices seem frozen on 9:11 PM.

 

  1. When you finally find this, I’ll be gone again, back into the corner of our dark game, stitching my nefarious seeds into stone, your collar bone. You mustn’t panic or tell the others. None of them should know.
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